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Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill are hip hop's Johnny Potseed, breaking out joints onstage and filling albums with ganja praises. The problem is that on their new release, IV, the danky smoke references are as stale as month-old bong water.

The album begins with the sound of a match stroke, then quickly relays into a clash with the police, another familiar Cypress Hill topic. By song five, the subjects extensively covered on the group's first three releases -- buds, pigs, rolling, dealing -- have all been rehashed and retold. The song titles alone ("Prelude to Come Up," "High Times," "Dr. Greenthumb") prove that on this record, at least, weed is more of a gimmick than a slogan.

Borrowing from past ideas is nothing new for Cypress Hill. Many of the beats on the sophomore Black Sunday were remixes from their first album ("Clock the Hammer"). They managed to avoid direct quotes on the next record, Temples of Boom, by transforming the familiar funk into a sinister sound. The Los Angeles outfit continues that idea into IV. DJ Muggs lays down abstract beats, classical strings, and inventive samples. And the song "Checkmate" weaves a dark piano into murky bass loops, while "Tequila Sunrise" blends flamenco flair with a traditional hip-hop beat. Cypress Hill have got the sound right, but the tired lyrical scenarios overshadow the musical achievements. I say it's nothing more than a stale exhale.

-- Robert Arriaga

Cypress Hill play Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Tickets are $25; call 346-6000.

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